Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
If you've ever felt lonely, you're not alone. Most of us feel that way from time to time. In fact, in our busy and so-called "connected" world, loneliness seems to be increasing.
Experts are now saying that loneliness is becoming a public health hazard. As one researcher put it, "Many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a 'loneliness epidemic'" (see Julianne Holt-Lunstad in "Loneliness May Be a Greater Public Health Hazard than Obesity — and Experts Say It's Getting Worse," by Chris Weller, published in Business Insider, Aug. 7, 2017).
In England, for example, a telephone hotline has been set up so that those who feel lonely can talk to somebody — about whatever they want, for as long as they want. The hotline receives about 10,000 calls a week, according to the article.
So many are lonely; what can be done?
To begin with, it's good to remember that we are never really alone. God is in his heaven, watching over us all. But he also wants us to reach out to others. Instead of scrolling endlessly through social media posts, we can plan ways to get together. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, we can make a call. Instead of hoping others will think of us, we can show interest in them.
A widow of many years decided a long time ago that she could either be lonely or she could be friendly. So she makes it a point to look for those who need a friend. She says, "You can never have enough friends."
Another man signs up for classes and gets involved in his community and church. He talks with neighbors and stays in touch with his family. What he discovered is true for all of us: loneliness decreases when we make an effort to interact with others, when we befriend the friendless and find ways to bring people into our circle, however small it might seem.
Of course, we all need time alone every now and then. But there are those with too much time alone, and they need our love and friendship, our outreach and kindness, our care and concern. As we help others to feel less lonely, we will find that we needed them just as much as they needed us.